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Paonia board to vote on sanctions against Brunner

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At the May 23 board meeting Paonia trustees voted to consider sanctions against trustee Bill Brunner after he released a series of e-mails to the media and the town clerk on April 25. "The release was not an agenda item," and was not previously noticed to the board, town administrator or town attorney, said Mayor Charles Stewart.

The board voted on May 9 to direct town attorney Bo Nerlin to review the emails and to determine if any violations of open meetings law or the town's newly adopted Standards of Conduct occurred. Following a May 23 executive session called to receive legal advice from Nerlin "specific to Trustee Brunner's e-mail release," trustee David Bradford motioned, and trustee Chelsea Bookout seconded, to direct Nerlin to prepare a memorandum concerning information provided to the board by Nerlin in the executive session. The memo will be released to the public, but its contents were not discussed at the meeting. The motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with trustees Watson and Bill Bear voting "nay" and trustees Karen Budinger, Bookout and Bradford voting "aye." Brunner recused himself from the vote.

Bradford also moved, and Bookout seconded, for the board to consider possible sanctions against Brunner at the June 13 board meeting, based on the contents of the yet-to-be-released memo from Nerlin. The motion passed, 4-0, with Brunner recusing himself and Watson refusing to vote. According to the standards of conduct, actions can range from remedial or educational training on the subject of the violation, to public warning, public censure, a request for the trustee's resignation, or removal from office.

The board has already voted to schedule a training session with Nerlin.

Brunner gave his account of the events leading up to the release of the emails in a letter published in the May 24 edition of the DCI. He alleges that violations of the state's open meetings laws occurred during negotiations between the town and residents of Hawk's Haven Subdivision for an easement through a privately-owned road. He made an open records request for emails related to the negotiations, and received all but four of the records he requested. He released the other emails at the April 25 meeting.

And while he faces sanctions, Brunner is also calling for discussion of another alleged violation of the standards of conduct. Trustee Watson has alleged at the last three meetings that violations of the standards occurred during an April 11 executive session, the same night the standards were adopted. The executive session was called to discuss items related to a request for emails by Brunner under the Colorado Open Records Act. No recording of the closed door meeting exists.

Stewart has denied discussion of what occurred in the executive session based on Robert's Rules of Order. In addition, said Stewart, since Watson, who made a statement alleging the violations following the executive session, made no formal motion, and no formal action was taken by the board, the time to address what occurred in the closed session has passed.

Brunner told the DCI he knows of no law that says one must keep secret any threats that occur in executive session.

"I am not interested in revealing town secrets," Brunner told the DCI. "What has to happen for it to be discussed in public? Where do you draw the line here?"

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